Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Range Rover (1970)

1973 Range Rover
Introduced June 1970

The development of the Range Rover is a very long and quite interesting story which you can read about if you want. But the very short version is that the Rover Company wanted something to follow-on from their successful Land Rover utility vehicle. This search started in the 1950s and surprisingly it took nearly two decades to come up with something that they thought was good enough to bear the “Land Rover” name… and more crucially something that might sell.

The original Land Rover was strictly an off-roader. On road it was awful to drive, slow and Spartan on the inside. Attempts to convert it into a Station Wagon over the years had not met with sales success. But in the US, cars like the International Harvester Scout and the Ford Bronco showed that there was indeed a market for utility vehicles that could be used as an everyday car.

Development of the Range Rover (codenamed “Velar”) started in the mid-1960s, and it combined lessons from the Land Rover’s impressive off-road manners with Rover’s ability to make a quite luxurious and usable car, but perhaps the key added ingredient was the legendary Rover V8 engine. The Rover V8 a powerful and lightweight engine that had originally been developed and abandoned by Buick. Buick’s loss was definitely Rover’s gain and the V8 engine spent 46 year in production (ending only when Rover collapsed).

In the Range Rover, the V8 gave the car the power it needed to shift its substantial weight in a fairly speedy manner. Inside were things like (gasp) comfy seats and carpets. Peculiarly it was designed as a two-door car, although coachbuilders such as Monteverdi would sell you a four-door conversion. It took until 1981 for a factory-built four-door Range Rover to become available and in 1992 a long wheelbase version cemented the idea of it being a luxury car and was probably the best-looking of all the original Range Rover models.

Late model four-door long wheelbase Range Rover LSE
It had idiosyncrasies. The split tailgate wasn’t to everyone’s taste and it had the turning circle of a bus. But it stayed in production (as the Range Rover Classic) until 1996, two years after the launch of the P38 which replaced it and an astonishing 26 years on the market during which it was continually developed as a product.

Today the Range Rover is very much a luxury car, but one that has lost none of it’s off-road capabilities. A 1970 Range Rover could cost you a shade under £2000 (about £32,000 today) where today a base model will cost around £81,000 with typical prices being £100,000 or more. An original Range Rover Classic in fair condition can cost between £15,000 to £25,000 with really good ones nudging the price of a new one. Even though the timeless design doesn’t really look 50 years old, buying and maintaining one of these might well be a labour of love.

As a car, the Range Rover really launched the idea of a luxury SUV in Europe and fifty years later the things are all over the place, love them or loathe them. Today more than a third of new car sales in Europe are of SUVs like the Range Rover, and in the US the figure is about than half the market. The rise of car leasing also means that people don’t have to spend so much at once to get one of these huge beasts. Far from being a niche, the SUV is now becoming the mainstream choice.

Image credits:
Vauxford via Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 4.0
nakhon100 via Wikimedia Commons – CC BY 2.0






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